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POSTED ON Friday, 02.17.2012 / 6:23 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Pekka Rinne, who has been impressed by the Red Wings' home winning streak, hopes the Predators can put a stop to it Friday night. (Photo by Getty Images)
While most of the Red Wings have taken their new NHL record in stride, opposing players and coaches have marveled at what the league’s best team has accomplished.

The Wings re-wrote the record book, surpassing a 36-year-old mark for most consecutive home victories when they defeated the Dallas Stars earlier this week, marking their 21st straight win.

Detroit hasn’t lost at home since dropping a 4-1 decision to Calgary on Nov. 3.

“I think it's truly amazing. Anytime a record's broken, or tied, or even in the same characteristic of any other record, it's special,” Stars forward Steve Ott said. “I think if you talk to Wayne Gretzky about Sam Gagner (eight-point game) and he'd tell you it's pretty amazing in this age. The players are a lot similar. The teams are a lot similar. That parity, it's so much closer than it was back in the 80s or the 70s, or even the 90s for that fact.”

Detroit has now gone 107 days without losing a game on home ice, outscoring opponents, 86-31. The Wings go for win No. 22 tonight when they host the Nashville Predators, who are currently the sixth seed in the Western Conference standings.

“I think it's one of the great records in the game,” Preds coach Barry Trotz said. “There isn't a team in this league that you can just say, ‘Hey play.’ There’s so many good goaltenders that can steal games. There's so many things that can happen. You've got travel. In the Western Conference, travel can beat you up. They've done it, and all the credit to them.”

Nashville is 13-2-2 versus its four Central Division foes – Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis and Columbus. The Predators will try to prevent from becoming the sixth team to lose more than once to the Wings during their winning streak.
 
Detroit defeated the Predators, 4-1 on Nov. 26. the last time they were in town.

“I don't think we can stress that too much,” Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said. “It's just a fact that everyone realizes and is in the back of our minds. But once the game starts, you're not going to think about those kinds of things. It's just another battle for another two points.”

The Wings’ record was first established by the Boston Bruins at the end of the 1929-30 season. Forty-six years later, the Philadelphia Flyers equaled the mark by winning the last 20 games of the 1975-76 campaign.

But Trotz is quick to point out that the Wings established the new mark in a far different fashion than the Flyers.
 
“Home ice isn't as big as an advantage as it was in the 70s, when you had to fight your way out of the rinks in Philadelphia, or somewhere like that, where you were just trying to get out of there alive,” Trotz said. “I think it's less intimidating that it was in the past. That's why I think it's more impressive of a record, because building aren't intimidating like they used to be.”

Hasn't the Predators' coach heard the playoff atmosphere inside Joe Louis Arena?


 
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POSTED ON Friday, 02.17.2012 / 1:08 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Tomas Tatar makes his season debut with the Red Wings tonight against Nashville, filling in for Henrik Zetterberg, who is nursing a lower-body injury. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
Tomas Tatar helped ring in 2011 by scoring his first NHL goal in his first NHL game on New Year’s Eve.

Now, nearly 14 months later, the 21-year-old Czechoslovakian forward will have his second chance at the NHL when he makes his season debut for the Red Wings tonight against the Nashville Predators.

Tatar was recalled from Grand Rapids on Thursday shortly after the team declared that Henrik Zetterberg (lower-body) and Danny Cleary (knee) would sit out Friday’s contest.

Meanwhile, Tatar has had an outstanding season in Grand Rapids, eating up minutes in virtually every situation, including penalty kill and power play.

“He played well and he played hard for us. He's a threat at the American League level,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “When you come up here, you're on the fourth line, you've got to be good defensively, you've got to take care of the puck, you've got to get yourself in on the forecheck and hang on to the puck in the offensive zone. You do those things, we like you.”

Tatar will skate on the Wings’ fourth line with fellow rookies Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak. Forward Tomas Holmstrom is usually paired on the fourth line, but against the Predators, he’ll skate with Drew Miller and Darren Helm.

The Wings will be gunning for their 22nd straight home win tonight, extending their league-best home winning streak, which they set with Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Dallas.

For Tatar, the streak adds some pressure to his first league game of the season.

“I'm going to try my best, hit somebody, bring some energy, but for the game, there's other guys to make the game difference, not me,” he said. “It would be nice to continue on the streak. It would be nice for me to be part of this, a new NHL record. I'm going to try my best to help the guys win the game.”
 
In just his second pro season, Tatar has compiled 89 points with a plus-22 rating in 128 games. Because he turned pro at such an early age, he still has two full-seasons of eligibility in Grand Rapids before he runs out of options.

“My draft year was guys like Landon Ferraro, and they just got to Grand Rapids,” Tatar said. “This is my third year there. This should actually be my first year pro, if I didn't come so early. I'm still young. It's not like I have to be rushing something. I still have lots of years to develop and get better, and hopefully one day, I can be part of this team for a whole season.”

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POSTED ON Thursday, 02.16.2012 / 1:41 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Patrick Eaves is still battling post-concussion symptoms from a head injury that he suffered against Nashville on Nov. 26. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
Three months after he was struck in the head by a fast-moving puck, Patrick Eaves continues to deal with concussion-like symptoms, including daily headaches.

The veteran forward was at Joe Louis Arena Thursday morning and spoke exclusively to The Wheel Deal blog in the Red Wings’ dressing room.

“I’m dealing with a lot of headaches right now, but yeah, it’s getting better, slowly,” said Eaves, who had one assist in 10 games before the injury. “I have one pretty much all of the time.”

Eaves, 27, suffered a broken jaw when he was hit on the right side of the head while trying to block a high-rising slap shot by Nashville’s Roman Josi on Nov. 26.

Two days later, he had surgery to fix his fractured jaw.

Wings general manager Ken Holland said last week that there’s no timetable attached to Eaves’ return, saying, “We’re going to be real conservative with him.”

Now that the jaw has fully recovered, Eaves has tried to regain some physical activity, but certainly nothing close to levels that he’s used to. And he’s only put the skates on once, which was more therapeutic than anything, he said.

“Yeah, it definitely helps to come down here and do the same routine that I was accustomed to,” he said. “I can cruise on the bike a little bit, but nothing too crazy.”

Originally assessed as a “jaw” injury, Eaves can certainly now be added to the growing list of NHL players who have sustained serious head trauma this season. Concussions have decimated the league with the likes of Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Ottawa’s Milan Michalek, Carolina’s Jeff Skinner, Philadelphia’s Chris Pronger and St. Louis’ Andy McDonald, among others, all being sidelined.

The Flyers have already announced that Pronger will miss the rest of the season and playoffs, but the future for Eaves remains cloudy.

“I just have to take time to let the brain heal,” Eaves said.

Asked about the next steps in his recovery, Eaves said, “I’m not sure. It’s just see how the symptoms come and go.”


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POSTED ON Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 1:05 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Philly center Zac Rinaldo gives up five-inches in height to Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
Moments after picking himself off the ice following a first-period collision that left the 6-foot-4 defenseman sprawled behind the Red Wings’ net, Jonathan Ericsson looked to see the “plate” number on the Flyers’ “truck” that delivered the devastating hit.

The second he noticed that it was No. 36 – the Flyers’ 5-foot-11 Zac Rinaldo – he knew it had to be an illegal hit. Rinaldo received a two-minute charging penalty.

“As a shorter guy to come up to my face, that’s illegal,” said Ericsson. “I thought it was a little bit of a dirty hit.”

Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s dean of supplement discipline, thought so, too, levying a two-game suspension without pay on Rinaldo for a charging incident in which the Flyers’ rookie center catapulted himself into Ericsson in the first period of Sunday’s game.

“I was surprised, I didn’t expect it at all,” Ericsson said of the hit. “I know he’s the type of player who runs late. I saw him up there and I played the puck before the first post and never expected to get hit after, so I felt the hit was late.”

Ericsson accepted some blame for the hit, as he had his head down trying to cycle the puck backwards behind the net when the hit occurred at 13:25 of the first period.

“Guys like that, you have to kind of keep your head up,” he said. “Maybe I’ll have to keep my head up sooner next time.”

This month Rinaldo, 21, has forfeited $10,885.88 in salary for three separate incidents, including two that occurred in a game against the New Jersey Devils, which sparked a fight involving Ilya Kovalchuk.

Rinaldo was fined $2,500 – the maximum allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement – for a late hit on Devils center Jacob Josefson in the second period. Rinaldo also was fined another $2,500 for his dangerous trip – a slew foot – of New Jersey captain Zach Parise after a whistle in the third period. No penalty was assessed, but it triggered a scrum that ended with Kovalchuk knocking down Brayden Schenn in a fight.

Rinaldo is the third opposing player suspended this season for an illegal hit on a Red Wings’ player, joining St. Louis Blues’ Chris Stewart and Ian Cole, who both received three-game suspensions.

 

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POSTED ON Sunday, 02.12.2012 / 4:23 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Tomas Holmstrom sits on the snowmobile that his Red Wings' teammates presented to him Saturday in recognition for playing in 1,000 NHL games. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
There were two things that Tomas Holmstrom got out of playing in the 1,000th game of his NHL career on Friday, but only one that he truly cherishes.

The 39-year-old Demolition Man has won four Stanley Cup titles and dealt with numerous debilitating injuries throughout a 14-plus season career that would surely limit – if not altogether end – the hockey lifeline of lesser willed individuals.

And it made perfect sense that Holmstrom receive a battle scar, a sort of reminder of his longevity milestone when in the first period Friday he had his nose broken and bloodied, courtesy of Anaheim forward George Parros.

“Of course it's going to happen in my 1,000th game,” Holmstrom said of his first career broken nose. “A little pain to remember.”

But by Saturday morning, Holmstrom was on to more pleasant thoughts when his Red Wings’ teammates surprised him with a Ski-Doo Renegade snowmobile, driven onto the ice at Joe Louis Arena by Henrik Zetterberg.

It’s a hockey tradition for players to pony-up to get a nice gift for a teammate who reaches 1,000-games. When asked for ideas, Holmstrom told his teammates that he would love to go on an Alaskan fishing trip. But the Wings’ players know how he likes snowmobiling, something that he’s done with his kids in northern Michigan during past few All-Star breaks.

The players threw Holmstrom a curveball when they purchased the iron sled model designed for the rider who prefer to hit off-trail terrain more than groomed trails.

“That was nice for the boys. I've got some nice teammates,” said Holmstrom, who began snowmobiling as a pre-teen growing up in northern Sweden. “They know I love snowmobiles. It was nice of them.”

The snowmobile was natural choice, Zetterberg said.

“I grew up loving snowmobiles. We enjoyed doing it,” Zetterberg said. “He really enjoys the outdoors, so it was a pretty easy choice. He had a few different ones, and we thought the snowmobile he would always use.”

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POSTED ON Friday, 02.10.2012 / 2:56 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Red Wings goalie Ty Conklin is a licensed private pilot, who flies a Super Cub, two-seat airplane, similar to this one.
Joey MacDonald used Thursday’s off-day to retrieve some things from Grand Rapids, including his enormous red Ford F-250, which the “Boys in the Parking Lot” affectionately refer to as Red Bird III.

But the Red Wing’ third string goaltender first needed to drum up transportation to the westside of the state. And that’s where backup goalie Ty Conklin entered the picture.

A licensed private pilot, Conks offered Joey Mac a lift, err, flight, to get his gear.

“It was good, he was awesome,” said MacDonald, of Conklin’s piloting skills. “I had to go there and he was flying anyways, so he offered to take me over.”

Flying out of Oakland/Troy Airport, the goalies took to the Wild Blue Yonder on an unusually picturesque February day in Michigan.

“It was enjoyable, a smooth ride on a clear day, you could see everything,” MacDonald said of the flight, which took 35-40 minutes from wheels up to wheels down.

Last Friday, MacDonald traveled from Grand Rapids to Edmonton – via a connector through Toronto – when he was called up by the Wings after Jimmy Howard fractured his right index finger in a shoot-out win at Vancouver.

Doctors told Howard that it would be 4-6 weeks before his finger healed, though he’s hoping to return to the Wings’ lineup a lot sooner. Still, MacDonald gives the Wings a chance to win every night. In three games, he’s posted a 1-1-1 record with a 1.83 goals-against average.

Clearly, goalies are adventurous types – anyone who stands in front of a 100-m.p.h. slap shot must be, right? – and after flying for the first time with Conklin at the controls, MacDonald said he’s entertaining thoughts of perhaps enrolling in flight school.
 
“I definitely would consider doing something like that,” MacDonald said. “I’ve always been interested in it, and I love flying. It’s fun and when you get to enjoy something like that it’s a nice hobby. … It was interesting to see what Ty has to do to fly something like that.

“He’s great, one of the best pilots, ever.”


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POSTED ON Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 3:51 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Red Wings forward Danny Cleary has been bothered by a painful left knee for months, but the level of discomfort is too great. He'll have the knee drained this week. (Photo by Getty Images)
With the Baker’s cyst causing far too much pain and discomfort to continue playing, Danny Cleary will go ahead and having his left knee drained this week.

“His knee is acting up and it’s been an on-going issue,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said during Thursday’s news conference at Comerica Park to announce next season’s Winter Classic. “He’s going to get it drained and he’s probably out for tomorrow and probably out for Sunday, and then we’ll see Monday how he feels. I don’t think it’s anything long-term.”

With eyes on breaking the NHL record for most consecutive home victories, the Wings, who are two wins from catching the 1929-30 Boston Bruins and 1976 Philadelphia Flyers, will host Anaheim on Friday and the Flyers on Sunday evening.
 
Cleary left Wednesday’s 4-2 win over Edmonton following a body-check by Oilers forward Ben Eager. The third-period hit sent Cleary awkwardly into the door to the Wings’ bench. Cleary picked up an assist in the win, his sixth point in the last six games.

Rookie forward Jan Mursak is expected to take Cleary’s place on the third line along side Darren Helm and Drew Miller. Mursak has two assists in three games since returning to the lineup. He suffered a fractured ankle in a preseason game in September.

Cleary is one of six players to have played in all 55 games this season. He has 11 goals and 16 assists with a plus-12 rating.
 
“We were hoping that we could get to the schedule where we have a few less games, but ultimately he couldn’t wait anymore,” Holland said. “But it’s OK, we have to get him healthy and it’s an opportunity for Jan Mursak.

“When Jan Mursak’s gone in there he’s done a good job, so we think we have some pretty good depth.”

Holland also said there’s no news on forward Patrick Eaves, who has been on the injured reserved list since he suffered a broken jaw against Nashville on Nov. 26.

“I think he’s doing better but obviously not well enough to practice,” Holland said. “He got a slap shot right in the head and he’s had concussion-like symptoms so obviously we’re going to be real conservative with him.”

Meanwhile, the Wings have been impressed by the job that rookie Cory Emmerton has done in Eaves’ absence. Emmerton scored his six goal of the season Wednesday.

“Emmerton is all of a sudden, with the injury to (Patrick) Eaves, gotten in every day and he’s done a nice job,” Holland said. “Now it’s time for Jan Mursak.”


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POSTED ON Monday, 02.06.2012 / 6:12 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Joey MacDonald gets his first start with the Red Wings in 11 months when he faces the Phoenix Coyotes tonight at Jobing.com Arena. (Photo by Getty Images)
GLENDALE, Arizona –There’s nothing worse for a third-string goaltender then getting called up and sitting at the end of an NHL bench for 60-minutes – maybe more – in a backup role.

Fortunately for Joey MacDonald his wait was significantly less as he entered last Saturday’s game at the start of the second period at Edmonton. He' get his first NHL start of the season Monday when the Red Wings wrap-up a four-game road trip with a game against the Phoenix Coyotes. 

“Whenever you come up and get a chance to play in a couple of games right away, that's what you want,” said MacDonald, who relieved Ty Conklin after the Oilers raced to a 3-1 lead. “You don't want to be sitting around and watching. You want to get right in there.

“I think last game was a great example, get right in there and give the team a chance to win. Same thing tonight, just hold the fort. You know these guys are going to come out hard.”

Tonight’s game at Phoenix will mark MacDonald’s first NHL start since last March, when the Wings dropped a 10-3 decision to the St. Louis Blues.

It's also the first time that the soon-to-be 32-year-old goaltender (his birthday is Tuesday) has ever faced the Coyotes. 

Last July, MacDonald signed a two-year contract to remain in the organization with the hopes of getting a shot to return to the NHL.

“That's why I signed here, it's an opportunity to take advantage of it,” he said. “I didn't sign to be down in Grand Rapids. You got to keep working hard wherever you are and when you get the opportunity take advantage of it.”

With All-Star goalie Jimmy Howard possibly on the shelf for two weeks with a fractured right index finger, MacDonald wants to show that he can be a suitable alternative in the meantime.

The journeyman goaltender is in his second stint with the Wings. Last season he appeared in 15 games and posted a 5-5-3 record with a 2.58 goals-against average.

On Saturday, he helped keep the Wings in the game against the speedy Oilers, who cruised to a 3-1 lead. The Wings managed to storm back to take a 4-3 lead, before the Oilers tied the game, forcing overtime and eventually a shoot-out where the home team won.

“When you get an opportunity to play, even if it's down in Grand Rapids, you get in a groove,” MacDonald said. “Playing eight or 10 in a row down there, you can come here and jump into a game right away, makes it a little easier.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill
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POSTED ON Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 4:19 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

EDMONTON, Alberta
– Despite having a broken right index finger, goalie Jimmy Howard was on the ice with his Red Wings’ teammates at Rexall Place Saturday morning.

Howard, who suffered the fracture early in the third period of Thursday’s win at Vancouver, said that he will likely miss more than two games – the original prediction – but less than two weeks.

“I really haven’t been told, but the doctors in Vancouver told me four to six (weeks) before it’s healed,” Howard said. “When they told me four to six, I thought, ‘There’s no chance that I’m, you, know, going to be out four to six. Just two weeks sounded good.”

In the meantime, Ty Conklin will be the Wings' starter beginning Saturday against the Oilers, a team that he has a 4-2-0 overall record with a 3.02 goal-against average and a .900 saver percentage. It's been nearly three years since Conklin last played at Rexall when he led the Wings to a 3-2 victory on March 24, 2009.

If Howard is out for two weeks that means he could likely miss seven games with an eye on returning for the home game against the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 19.

More will be known of Howard’s return once he sees team doctors Tuesday when the Wings return to Detroit following their current four-game road trip out west, which concludes Monday in Phoenix.

Wings equipment manager Paul Boyer fabricated a three-inch notch from the top of the stick’s paddle in hopes to make it easier to grip for Howard, who said he’s played before with broken digits.

“As you can see with my stick (there’s) a piece notched out so I’m able to hold on with (middle and ring) fingers,” Howard said. “I didn’t even take any shots today, so I don’t know how it will feel with the vibrations of the shots.”

Howard said he wants to return as soon as he’s comfortable and pain-free.

“I think the only danger is that it’s not going to heal, I think that’s the only danger,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any danger of injuring myself any further.

“I’m guessing that it’s two weeks. It’s really optimistic that it’s just two games. “Hopefully I can be back as soon as possible.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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POSTED ON Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 1:17 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Jimmy Howard shows his broken right index finger to the media Friday morning at Rexall Place. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)
EDMONTON, Alberta – Friday morning as Jimmy Howard spent in his hotel room in downtown Edmonton, he was awakened by a pulsating in his right index finger.

“It woke me up around 7 a.m. and felt like it (finger) was going pop off,” Howard said.

Howard suffered the fracture early in the third period of Thursday’s 4-3 shoot-out win at Vancouver. He said it occurred when the Canucks’ Max Lapierre fired a low shot that got underneath Howard’s blocker.

“Lapierre spun and shot it, missed my blocker and caught me right on the finger,” he said. “It is broken and we’ll see here. Won’t play the rest of the road trip and we’ll go home and see our doctors there and get their opinion.”

Immediately following the win, Howard had an X-ray taken at Rogers Arena, which showed a “clean break,” he said. “I’ve played with broken fingers before, so I’ll have to fool around with my sticks and cut some notches out of them.”

Backup goalie Ty Conklin will get the start against the Oilers at Rexall Place tonight. Meanwhile, Joey MacDonald has been recalled from Grand Rapids and will be Conklin’s backup tonight.

Conklin has played in 10 games this season – all on the road – while posting a 3-5-0 record with a 3.02 goal-against average. This will be Conklin’s first start at Rexall in nearly three years, since leading the Wings to a 3-2 win on March 24, 2009.

“This is a good opportunity, he gets a chance and he’s ready to go, so let’s get at it,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve got to play real well like we always try to do and if we get do that we’ll give Conks a chance to be good.”



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